THE BLOG

It's Time to Loosen Up About Poppers

10/11/2015 18:06 | Updated 10 November 2016

Poppers. A little plastic pot of acetone smelling gas. Often passed around by small groups of teenagers in dark night clubs or used by gay men in the bedroom as a muscle relaxant. A small head rush per sniff and you're done. It's the drugs equivalent of opting for a low alcohol beer.

Yet Theresa May's sweeping drug law reform threatens to inflict the harshest of sentences for their use or sale. In the absence of medical evidence, in the maelstrom of moral panic around "legal highs", our Home Secretary has imposed heavy new criminal punishments for a range of substances previously seen as harmless.

It's once again a very worrying step backward in our policy on drugs. More and more countries are looking at the evidence and seeing that decriminalisation of drugs is the only step forward, with Ireland only this week taking landmark steps. Our government is moving in the other direction and banning more substances.

Quite simply there is no concrete reason to be banning poppers In terms of health grounds there is very little to link poppers to adverse health consequences, especially in comparison to alcohol or cigarettes. David Nutt's landmark drug study in 2007 ranked poppers as far less harmful than either. In terms of societal issues poppers have never been associated seriously with addiction and can hardly be accused of destabilising society. Indeed for many couples the use of poppers as a muscle relaxant makes sex easier and more pleasurable.

The end result of banning poppers is not going to be the net gain the Tories imagine. More time policing the use of harmless substances is more police time wasted. The demand for poppers and other similarly harmless substances will not go away. Instead we criminalise a new generation and empower the criminal elements who will move in to fill a demand.

The clearest way forward has been led by the Greens. It was Caroline Lucas MP who has called for a wholesale review on our failed "war on drugs". It's the Greens "radical" agenda to treat drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal issue. It's time for all progressives, especially Corbyn's newly radical Labour, to fight for better drug laws.

The ban on poppers is happening because no one has been talking about. It's time to shine a light. I'll admit I've had poppers and yes I did inhale. It did me no harm and countless others the same. It's time for a grown up drugs policy. One that recognises that evidence should govern drug law not reactive conservative morals. It's time my Tory friends to pass over the Poppers bottle and loosen up.